Posted on July 10 2018
As you may be aware, the blight of wildfires has even reached the UK now. After a prolonged dry period, combined with possibly a malicious individual, a wildfire has been raging in peatland for nearly two weeks. I am of course refering to the Saddleworth Moor fire.
Given that any significant rainfall is not expected anytime soon, it seemed like a good time to remind everyone the importance of fire discipline when out in the wilds. Here are some hints, tips and reminders to keep our natural resources safe:
1 - Don't light a fire. No fire no problem! It's warm enough at this time of year that your clothes and shelter should be more than sufficient to keep you warm.
2 - Cook with gas or solid fuels. It is a lot easier to control a gas or solid fuel stove. Methylated spirit stoves such as a Trangia can be knocked over so are best avoided in extremely dry conditions. Be sure to isolate your stove from the ground and any flammable materials such as grasses and twigs. Alternatively, use a liquid activated ration heater.
3 - Keep your fire small. If you need a fire, keep it tiny. Preferably, the fire should be completely isolated from the ground in a bowl or pit (see our previous blog about hanging fires!).
4 - Having an open fire in peatland or dense woodland is extremely risky. The dense underbrush, peat and tree roots can actually smoulder underground, unseen, for hours or even months before finally resurfacing and causing massive damage.
5 - Make sure your fire is out! Pour several litres of water over your fire or ashes. Dry and dampen all the surrounding area too. Saturating the ground would be ideal. Once out, use the back of your hand to feel for residual heat. One single, small neglected coal could be enough to start a massive blaze! Do not leave the area until there is no heat being produced. If you have no water, pee on it. Failing this, wait for all the fuel to burn itself out, again, making sure there is no residual heat. Burying your fire with soil should only be used as a last option (see point 4 above).
6 - Be aware that overhanging branches can catch fire relatively easily. Exposed to enough heat, even a healthy, live tree can catch fire. This situation is particularly dangerous as the fire can then quickly spread to other trees.
Be aware that many woodlands, forests, National Parks and private wildlands operate a strict "no open flames" policy, particularly in extreme draught conditions. Severe fines and possibly imprisonment can be a result!
Happy camping and keep yourself and the countryside safe!
Photo courtesy of John McCalgan for US Forest Service